The James Beard Foundation Announces 2023 Award Winners

Boston came home empty-handed, but the area had some incredible talent showcased in the semifinalist and nominee rounds this year.

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Photo by Victor Spinelli/WireImage/Getty Images

After months of anticipation, the James Beard Foundation announced its 2023 prestigious restaurant and chef awards tonight, June 5, at a gala in Chicago. While none of the Massachusetts nominees took home awards, it was an uplifting night across the board, featuring quite a few firsts (first win for chefs based in Puerto Rico, Idaho, and Oklahoma, for example). Another first was right in our backyard, with the Best Chef: Northeast winner Sherry Pocknett of Sly Fox Den Too in Charlestown, Rhode Island, becoming the first Indigenous woman to win a Beard award.

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This year’s awards cycle began with the announcement of a semifinalist list back in January, which included a thrilling collection of local contenders—both emerging and established Boston-area talent—among others around the country. Locally, the list included Red Rose, a Cambodian mainstay in Lowell, as an Outstanding Restaurant semifinalist; La Royal, a Peruvian restaurant in Cambridge, as a Best New Restaurant semifinalist; and four others in non-regional categories. Plus, six Massachusetts chefs were named as semifinalists in the Best Chef: Northeast category, including Derrick Teh of the Malaysian pop-up Sekali and Yahya Noor of East Boston Somali restaurant Tawakal Halal Café.

Two months later, the James Beard Foundation released its pared-down list of nominees: One Massachusetts chef remained up for a non-regional award (Rachel Miller of Lynn tasting menu destination Nightshade Noodle Bar) and two in the Best Chef: Northeast category (Yisha Siu of Yunnan Kitchen in the South End, serving Dian cuisine from southwestern China, and Valentine Howell of Krasi in Back Bay, serving Greek). All award winners in our eyes—and it has been exciting to see their profiles increase on the national stage.

While it certainly would have been nice to see an award or two go to Massachusetts this year, we can’t help but cheer for our neighbor 90 miles to the south. Wampanoag chef Sherry Pocknett and the Sly Fox team are busy building a restaurant, bar, living museum, and oyster farm in Connecticut with the aim of educating the public on Indigenous history, foodways, and culture. Lucky for Rhode Island, though—and us, a short drive away—Pocknett happened upon the Charlestown space in late 2020 and decided to build the Sly Fox Den Too. Here, one might eat dishes like sandwiches or tacos on fry bread, a crispy flatbread found in Indigenous cuisines throughout North America; quahog chowder, labelled as an original of Pocknett’s Mashpee Wampanoag tribe; and steak tips with three-sisters rice, which is packed with kale, corn, beans, and squash.

In addition to restaurant and chef awards, the James Beard Foundation gives out food media awards, honoring work across a variety of platforms, from cookbooks to social media accounts to podcasts. These winners were announced on June 3, and a couple people with Boston connections took home awards.

First, our very own Boston alum Brooke Jackson-Glidden, who worked here as an intern in 2015 and 2016, got the Jonathan Gold Local Voice Award (named for the late legendary food critic). Jackson-Glidden was honored for reporting that she has done at Eater Portland (the far-away Portland) on topics ranging from iftar traditions to overdose kits at bars. Be sure to check out the writing she and her team are producing if you’re planning a food-filled trip to Oregon.

And Boston native J. Kenji López-Alt—who worked at Massachusetts-based Cook’s Illustrated and America’s Test Kitchen, as well as in some Boston restaurants, including No. 9 Park and Clio—got an award for his latest cookbook, The Wok: Recipes and Techniques. It won in the category for single-subject cookbooks. (López-Alt is based on the West Coast these days.)

So, while we hope the foundation sends more local folks home with awards next year, we’re glad so many deserving people got recognition throughout the 2023 process, and we can’t wait to see what they do next—and what next year’s awards will bring.